Today Over Coffee welcomes debut novelist Oberon Wonch. With the “feasting season” beginning, I asked Oberon to talk about something food-related from her medieval romance, Come to Me. Take it away, Oberon!
over your posts of life in the Ozarks, especially the photos of landscapes and wildlife, some of my favorite things to get lost in on the Internet.
So, it’s not surprising that bees and beekeeping fascinate me, too. Anyone else? I love the imagery of the old-timey wicker skep sitting in a garden. Since the heroine of my first book, Come To Me, is an English noblewoman living in 11 th century England, and we know from writings of the time that mead (fermented honey) was a widespread favorite of the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples of post-Roman Europe, I wanted to include beekeeping and mead-making in my story.
Here is a fraction of what I learned about bee husbandry. 8,000-year-old cave paintings show that honey-gathering has been taking place since pre-historic times when people risked life and limb to climb trees and rob wild hives of the sweet, gooey liquid. Ancient Sumerian, Greek, and Chinese writings discuss managing bees and providing adequate, manmade habitats. Bee culture became supremely important to the Egyptians, was adopted by Rome, and then spread through all of Europe.
Even back to our earliest days, we wanted a little sweetener in our cuisine and went to great lengths to procure it, isn’t that something?
By the time of the Norman conquest of England in late 11th century AD, beekeeping was an indispensable industry. An Anglo-Saxon noblewoman’s responsibilities included keeping bees (in those lovely, conical straw or wicker baskets called skeps), extracting honey and beeswax, and overseeing mead production.
The entire arc of beekeeping, from capturing a swarm, to monitoring hives through the summer, to harvesting the honey and comb in the autumn, is a world of information too broad to address here.
However, making the mead was incredibly simple and a tribute to the thriftiness of the medieval housekeeper. Throughout the warm months as honey was gathered, comb was squeezed through linen gauze to extract the last drop of honey for household purposes. The comb and the gauze were rinsed with water (the comb then rendered for its wax to make candles), and the water was left in covered vats to ferment via the natural yeasts existing in the honey and surrounding air.
Variations in this process were practiced (for example, herbs and spices were added for flavor), and later written recipes called for boiling 4-to-1 parts water and honey rather than merely using the strainings.
So, that’s my little peek into one tiny aspect of life in the Middle Ages.
Are you as fascinated by bees and beekeeping as I am? Would you like to someday try mead made in true medieval fashion?
A maiden’s duty becomes a woman’s desire…
In this twist on the classic Cyrano story, Bridget of Shyleburgh is ordered to help Count Grégoire FitzHenri, the new Earl of Shyleburgh and the man she secretly loves, court another woman.
Mortified at first, Bridget soon finds herself completely enthralled by the earl’s whispers of love and desire. His heated wooing tempts a fair maiden to stray down a path filled with forbidden pleasures. But his words are meant for another… aren’t they? Read More at Amazon
Oberon Wonch has engaged in a love affair with books for as long as she can remember. Penning her own stories from an early age, she later earned a degree in World Literature while studying several languages--all in order to learn what makes a tale endure the ages, but really just to read more books. Her very favorite stories--both to read and write--are those that celebrate the happily-ever-after. She enjoys connecting with readers. Contact her through her website at www.oberonwonch.com or follow her on Twitter @OberonWonch and on Facebook.